In a randomized, double-blind study, 131 consecutive patients, subjected to elective upper laparotomy, were prophylactically given the recommended dose of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) (Mucomyst, ASTRA) (200 mg x 3) or placebo against postoperative pulmonary complications. The effect was evaluated by lung function tests (VC and FEV1), arterial blood gas analyses and chest x-ray. No benefit could be demonstrated, either to postoperative pulmonary function or in the frequency of atelectasis in the recommended dose. However, no patients with preoperative bronchopulmonary disease demanding treatment with bronchodilatators were included in the study. A positive effect of NAC in this category of patients could not be excluded.